NEW YORK (Reuters) - The U.S. Open is the only grand slam title missing from Rafa Nadal’s resume, yet the world number one is surprisingly not obsessed about winning in New York and joining an illustrious group of tennis greats.
“Seriously, for me, to complete the grand slam at this moment is not a goal,” the 24-year-old Spaniard told reporters on Friday, after his 6-2 7-6 7-5 second round victory over unseeded Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan.
“For me the goal is to try to improve my level, to play well (in) the next match, and we will see what happens next Sunday.
“For me it is not an obsession.”
Nadal, winner of the French Open five times, Wimbledon twice and the Australian Open once, has come to Flushing Meadows armed with a faster serve and an improved volley that could push him past the semi-finals, where his past two U.S. Open campaigns have ended.
Nadal did not drop serve on Friday, producing eight aces and clocking a fastest delivery of 134 miles per hour.
The Spaniard also won 13 of 19 points at the net and will be confident of victory against unseeded Frenchman Gilles Simon in the third round.
“For the moment, it’s working really well,” he said about his serve. “So I’m going to try to keep playing like this. Serving like this is a big confidence in my game.”
Nadal, who is aiming to join the illustrious group of Roger Federer, Andre Agassi, Roy Emerson, Fred Perry, Rod Laver and Don Budge and win all four major titles, said an adjustment made just before the Open had made the difference in his service delivery.
“I changed a little bit the grip, like five or six days ago,” the Mallorcan said. “So I tried to play the serve a little bit more aggressive.”
Nadal said he did not feel added pressure at the Open, unlike Roland Garros where his remarkable record of only one loss in six years means he is expected to win.
“I don’t think about winning this tournament now. So probably the pressure is going to be there if I am in the final,” he said. “I am five matches away, so (it) is a lot.”
Reporting by Larry Fine, Editing by Patrick Johnston